NHL Handicapping: Hot and Cold Report
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 5/13/2011
The NHL Conference Finals are set. In the West the seedings held and No. 1 Vancouver will meet No. 2 San Jose starting on Sunday and in the East No. 3 Boston will face No. 5 Tampa Bay starting on Saturday.
Totals in these NHL playoffs have been extremely streaky. Every game in the first round seemed to stay ‘under,’ and then there was a stretch of 10 consecutive games going ‘over’ or pushing. That trend has given way to a run of ‘unders’ where three consecutive games have stayed below the posted total, including San Jose’s Game 7 clincher against Detroit. Expect the ‘under’ trend to continue in the NHL Conference Finals.
NHL home-ice advantage in the playoffs is notoriously meaningless. This year is no different. The road teams are a remarkable 37-33 in the playoffs. Even being a few games under .500 would still make the road team profitable because of the shift in odds based on who is home. To be four-games better than home teams through 12 playoff series is incredible.
Favorites on the puck line
The odds are extremely tempting, but laying 1.5 goals and hoping for a regulation win and maybe even a late empty netter, is usually a formula for disaster. Since 2000, the winning margin in NHL Conference Finals games has been one goal in 52 out of 118 games. That is 44 percent of games in this upcoming round ending with a one-goal margin. So not only is picking the team a 50/50 proposition, then you have to worry about that team covering. In the long run, avoid the puck line on the favorites.
Prop bets laying multiple goals
Some sportsbooks offer prop bets on the favorite laying more than just the customary 1.5 goals. These odds are even more tempting, but a look at recent history and you can see why. Since 2000, 67 percent of conference final games have been decided by one or two goals and a whopping 91 percent have been decided by three goals or less. It might be fun to take a chance on 8/1 odds of a team winning big, but don’t count on it.
The Bruins have won five in a row, how could they possibly be cold? Well, they have not played since May 6. There will be a full seven days between their last game and the day of their next game. Boston did not fare so well, coming into the playoffs on a four-day lull. They fell behind Montreal 2-0 in the series in the first round before getting it going. This team is 5-1 in the postseason on short rest 3-2 on long rest (two days or more). The only team who has had to wait longer than the Bruins…
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bruins may seem like a well-oiled machine compared to Tampa Bay, who has not played a game since May 4. Ten days later they will be starting the Eastern Conference Finals. This is a team who in the first round was trailing Pittsburgh 3-1 in the series and heading back to Pittsburgh. Stunningly, they ripped off three consecutive wins to shock the Penguins and then outdid themselves with a four-game sweep of the top-seeded Washington Capitals. But 10 days is a long time. Tampa Bay cannot be pleased with how the schedule worked out.
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